We’ve all had moments of forgetfulness, difficulty remembering where we put our car keys, or even remembering people’s names. Normal right? But with time, you may notice that the forgetfulness turns into forgetting to shut off the stove, remembering what you did yesterday, getting lost going to familiar places, or even taking medications on time. You may be going through some cognitive changes where short-term memory and executive functioning skills are not as sharp as they once were. The first step is to acknowledge the change and to find ways to simplify your daily life.
The medical world continues to evolve with studies and interventions, so your doctor may suggest starting Cognitive Rehabilitation performed by an Occupational Therapist. They treat individuals with many different issues, and are well-trained in educating people with cognitive impairments. Occupational Therapists utilize different strategies related to dementia, Alzheimer’s, stroke, TBI, and others to assist with short term memory, organizational, problem solving, and multi-tasking difficulties. An important goal is to function independently within the patient’s environment with modifications and strategies to assist with everyday activities.
Compensatory strategies may be used for individuals to learn specific methods and skills so they are able to offset areas of challenge. Here are some examples of compensatory strategies and reminders that can be helpful:
- Make appointments and plans at the same time/day, and keep a calendar to review regularly
- Keep your phone/wallet/keys/purse in the same place when not in use
- Make lists and check off tasks/errands when completed
- Take your time to avoid mistakes
- Keep your tasks simple when possible, and focus on one at a time before moving onto another
- If a task is complicated, break it down into several steps, and give yourself a time frame for completion
- Organize medication in a pill box
- Reduce the clutter, get rid of junk mail, and eliminate unnecessary paperwork to reduce stress
- Rehearse new tasks over and over
- Stick to a routine in the same order each day
- Engage with family members that will encourage you to keep going
- Talk about old memories with friends and loved ones
- Discuss safety with your caregivers, and have them remove any items in the house that may cause you harm
Ada Rodriguez, MS, OTR/L has been a registered and licensed Occupational Therapist for the last 15 years. Her experience in the growing field has ranged from children to adults that require skilled and rehabilitative therapies which range from neurological, cognitive and orthopedic dysfunctions. Ada Is a member of the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy and is a licensed occupational therapist in New Jersey.